This section provides general information on how to keep your newborn baby safe. If you have questions about something, be sure to ask your doctor for more information. Friends and relatives who have raised a child are also a valuable resource.
Before going to the hospital
“Baby-proof” your home
- Be sure to have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector on each floor. Check the batteries every 6 months.
- Check all safety seats and baby furniture for safety. For example, crib slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. That way, a child’s head can not become trapped between them.
- Keep your baby’s crib away from window blinds with cords.
- Take a course in infant and child CPR and home safety.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is a good resource for recalls and repairs. Call 1-800-424-2772. You can also find updated product recall information at www.cpsc.gov.
Learn about vehicle and car seat safety
- Practice installing the baby's car seat in your vehicle.
- Use an approved car seat. If you have a used car seat, be sure that it meets current safety standards. Know the history of a used car seat. Do not use it if it has ever been in a car crash.
- Install the car seat properly. Read the instruction booklet for the car seat and the vehicle owner’s manual to learn how.
- Consider having your car seat installation checked by a certified professional.
When leaving the hospital
Car seat safety
According to Pennsylvania law, all car passengers must wear their seat belts. When used correctly, infant car seats save lives. All children below the age of 8 must use appropriate car seats.
- Car seats are safest when used in the center of the back seat. An infant should always face backwards. Babies must be securely fastened in the car seat harness.
- Never place a car seat or young children in the front seat or in any seat with a passenger side airbag.
- Never hold a child in your lap while riding in any vehicle.
- Never leave your baby alone in a car.
For more information about car seat safety, call 1-800-227-2358 (1-800-CARBELT) or visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
Keep your celebration private
- Do not use banners, balloons, or signs to announce the baby’s arrival. This alerts strangers that there is a new baby in the house.
- Limit birth announcements to family and friends.
- Do not let anyone in your house without proper identification.
Babies should be placed on their backs in a safe crib to sleep at night and for naps. Parents have been following this advice for the last several years. People used to think that babies sleeping on their backs would be more likely to choke or vomit. This is not true. Because of “Back to Sleep,” the number of babies who die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has been greatly reduced.
As long as you are watching your baby, you may place your baby on his or her tummy while he or she is awake.
Other ways to reduce the risk of SIDS
- Make sure the mattress and bedding are firm and fit tightly in the crib.
- Keep the temperature in baby’s room at your comfort level, not warmer.
- Do not allow anyone to smoke around your baby.
- Keep appointments with your baby’s doctor or clinic.
- Get scheduled shots and check-ups.
- Breastfeed your baby, if possible.
- Have your baby sleep in his or her own crib, bassinet, or cradle in your room.
- Keep the crib free of soft bedding and plush toys.
- Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bed time (after 1 month of age if you are breastfeeding)
Calming a crying baby
All babies cry, especially during the first few months of their lives. Crying is a baby’s only way to let you know that he or she is hungry, wet, tired, not feeling well, or even bored. Feeding or changing the baby may help. There are many other ways to calm a crying baby:
- Rock your baby gently.
- Walk with your baby snuggled against your chest.
- Sing to your baby or put on soft music.
- Take your baby for a ride in the stroller or the car.
- Gently hold your baby in different positions.
- Talk softly to your baby.
If all your attempts to calm the baby fail, and you are very frustrated, place the baby safely in the crib, close the door and go to another room. It may help to call a family member or friend. You can also call the Family Resource Warmline for support and advice: 1-877-WARMLYN (1-877-927-6596).
- Never leave your baby alone on a high surface such as a bed, table, or couch.
- Do not leave your baby alone while giving him or her a bath.
- Never put pillows, heavy blankets, or stuffed animals in bed with a newborn.
- Never tie anything around the baby’s neck (for example, a pacifier or a baby toy) or across the crib or playpen.
- Never shake or toss your baby, even during play. Babies have very weak neck muscles. Shaking causes their heads to wobble back and forth. This may cause serious injuries like brain damage, eye damage, spinal injury, or intellectual disability.
- Always support a baby’s head. Teach others who care for your baby how to support the baby’s head the right way. Be sure to explain the dangers of shaking a baby.
If your baby is shaken, whether by accident or on purpose, get your baby to an emergency room immediately.